Monday, June 17, 2019

Railroad spikes to corral wayward garden hose

For years I've been struggling with the garden hose as I hand-water plants in the front yard. Even though I have rocks placed in strategic corners that are supposed to keep the hose from strangling and mangling plants, it doesn't always work, especially if the rock surface is a bit slick.


Last week I happened to be on Etsy and through sheer chance I came across a listing for old railroad spikes. BINGO! This could be the solution for my hose troubles.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

B. Jane Garden: small but sophisticated backyard resort (#gbfling2018)

More from the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, which took place in Austin, Texas from May 4-6, 2018. 

Garden bloggers from North America and Europe are gathering in Denver, CO right now for the 2019 Garden Bloggers Fling. Because of my daughter's high school graduation, I'm not able to join them, but I'm there in spirit. To celebrate the 2019 Fling, I'm making a concerted effort to write about the gardens we saw last year in Austin. There are still some incredible places to come!

Today: B. Jane Garden, located in the Brentwood neighborhood in Central Austin. This area was a cotton farm until the 1940s when it was annexed by the City of Austin. This area is dominated by two- and three-bedroom bungalows, many of which were originally bought by GIs starting families after WWII.

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What do they say about mullets? Business in the front, party in the back? That comparison popped into my head as I was going through my photos of this garden. You'll see why in a moment.

B. Jane is an Austin landscape designer whose company, B. Jane Gardens, offers full-service design and build services. The garden we visited is B. Jane's own Brentwood oasis.

The house looks like it started out as one of those modest 1950s bungalows I mentioned earlier. I have no doubt that originally there was a front lawn as well as unassuming foundation shrubs in front of the house. The lawn is long gone, replaced by a climate-appropriate planting scheme that's as attractive as it's water-wise and low-maintenance (“I love plants but I’m not a constant gardener,” B. Jane admits).

Muhly grass and opuntias in front of B. Jane's home

Monday, June 10, 2019

Visiting the garden of Austin, TX writer and blogger Pam Penick (#gbfling2018)

More from the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, which took place in Austin, Texas from May 4-6, 2018. 

Garden bloggers from North America and Europe are getting ready for the 2019 Garden Bloggers Fling in Denver, CO next week. Because of my daughter's high school graduation I won't be able to join them, but I'll be there in spirit.

Thinking of the 2019 Fling made me realize that there are still several gardens from the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, TX that I haven't covered yet. No better time to start catching up than now—and no better garden to showcase than the private sanctuary of Pam Penick, one of the original founders of the Garden Bloggers Fling and co-organizer of the 10th anniversary event in Austin.

Pam Penick's award-winning blog is called Digging: cool gardens in a hot climate. She not only chronicles the evolution of her own garden in Austin, TX but also writes about other gardens—public and private— in Austin, Texas, and beyond: The Regional Garden Tours drop-down menu on Digging has listings for 24 U.S. states and eight foreign countries!

In addition, Pam has written numerous articles for magazines such as Country Gardens, Garden Design, and Wildflower as well as two bestselling books published by Ten Speed Press: Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard and The Water-Saving Garden: How to Grow a Gorgeous Garden with a Lot Less Water.

North Carolina blogger Daricia McKnight in front of a perfect specimen of Agave ovatifolia

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Air Plant Alchemy: behind the scenes at a tillandsia nursery

More from the 2019 Bromeliad Summit in Santa Barbara, which took place from April 4-7, 2019. 

The final destination we visited at the 2019 Bromeliad Summit was Air Plant Alchemy. They're a major grower and wholesaler of tillandsias and orchids and now have a showroom/retail outlet at their location outside of Carpinteria. We had a chance to shop (the first and only opportunity at the Summit) and got to take a look inside a production greenhouse. I should have stuck with the group as I might have learned a few things about growing tillandsias, but as usually I drifted off to take photos. When will I learn?

The showroom/retail outlet occupies half a greenhouse and features some impressive specimens of tillandsias and other bromeliads:



Quite a few tillandsias were flowering:

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wacky Wednesday featuring nine red cactus flowers

Our Echinopsis ‘Johnson Hybrid’ just had a nonuplet of flowers. I was hoping they'd open two or three at a time so the entire show would last a little longer, but no, all nine opened on the same day. By the afternoon on the second day, the flowers were all done. So much concentrated beauty in such a short span of time!


Monday, June 3, 2019

10-acre Montecito estate garden near Lotusland

More from the 2019 Bromeliad Summit in Santa Barbara, which took place from April 4-7, 2019. 

On the final day of the Bromeliad Summit, we visited an estate garden in Montecito not far from Lotusland. I'm sure everybody has a slightly different idea of what an “estate” is, but in my book, 10 acres in one of the priciest zip codes in the country certainly qualifies.

10 acres is 435,600 square feet. That's 53 times the size of our lot (8,145 sq.ft.). In fact, the house on this estate is larger than our entire lot. According to public records, the house (actually, “home” would probably be a more appropriate word) is 11,160 sq.ft., compared to 8,145 sq.ft. for our lot.

What I'm trying to say: I was in a completely different world. I knew it when about halfway down the seemingly endless driveway we passed a structure which at first glance appeared to be a house. Looking closer, I realized it was a massive garage—with eight garage doors, so room for at least that many cars. And when we got to the actual residence, I saw that it had its own three-car garage. This is one car-loving family!

We were met in the entrance courtyard by landscape architect Derrik Eichelberger of Arcadia Studio, the principal designer of the garden. He wasn't at liberty to say who the owners are, but he did indicate that they live here only part-time, a few months out of the year. (Whatever reaction you just had, I had the same.)

Derrik took us on a walking tour of the sprawling grounds (ten acres is ten acres) and talked about the distinctly different gardens. I could have learned a lot from Derrik if I had listened carefully, but there were so many things to distract me that both my mind and my body began to drift.

As a result, I can't tell you much about the gardens or the estate in general. Instead, I'll invite you to look at the 70+ photos in this post and simply enjoy the visuals.

Courtyard (through archway)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Visiting Mr. Hechtia, Andy Siekkinen

In my recent rain in May post I showed you a number of hechtias in my garden. That, in turn, reminded me that I still hadn't written about my visit with Mr. Hechtia, Andy Siekkinen, at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden last December—an oversight I'm remedying herewith.

Andy is currently doing PhD research at Claremont Graduate University's Department of Botany, which is housed at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Andy's scientific focus is on the genus Hechtia; using next-generation DNA sequencing, he's examining the relationships between the various Hechtia species in order to reorganize the taxonomy of the genus from the ground up. His recent Master's thesis, Systematics of Hechtia (Hechtioideae): Insights in phylogenetics and plastome evolution in a non-model organism with Next Generation Sequencing, was the first major step in that direction.

While I have a rudimentary understanding of phylogenetics (the study of evolutionary relationships among organisms) and taxonomy (the science of classification), the finer points go right above my head. And that's OK with me. I'm no scientist, and my interest is fairly mundane: I simply want to know how plants are related. I like things to be structured and organized—a real challenge considering nature often prefers chaos and confusion over order. That's why I'm glad that there are bright minds like Andy who dig deep into the specifics and allow me to benefit from their research.

Andy Siekkinen in front of some of his bromeliads

Andy had told me that he's able to use greenhouse space at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden although the bulk of his collection is at his house in San Diego. In light of that, I expected to see a few dozen plants at most. Was I in for a surprise!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bromeliads for the backyard

In my previous post I talked about redoing the bed you see on the right in the photo below:


But why stop there? Let's swing around to the left:


While I didn't do any major renovation here (that was done last year), I've been adding more bromeliads. This includes plants I brought home from the 2019 Bromeliad Summit in Santa Barbara and from Hortlandia.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Out with the old, in with the new: small succulent bed makeover in backyard

Last week's unplanned makeover of a section of the streetside bed, the result of our 'Sonoran Emerald' palo verde falling flat on its face, proved contagious. Out with the old, in with the new—sometimes there's nothing better to break through the inertia.

Case in point: this small planting strip along the side of the house (the kitchen is behind the wall). It's separated by a concrete walkway from the much larger planting bed against the streetside fence. On the other side of the fence is the streetside bed where the palo verde toppled over, just to give you a sense of place.

Since the bed is only 2½ feet deep, we're limited in what we can plant there. After a long cycle of trial and error (mostly the latter), I decided to stick aloes and agaves in there. I can't even remember when that was—it might have been as long as ten years ago. Likewise, I can't tell you where the yellow columbine on the left came from; probably a volunteer. The nasturtiums were here when we bought the house 22 years ago; I'm sure they'll outlive us, too.

From left to right: Agave 'Red Margin, Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor', Aloe cameronii × maculata, Agave parry var. truncata, Aloe striata, Yucca filamentosa 'Bright Edge', Aloe glauca

There wasn't anything terribly wrong with this bed, but I was tired of the same-o, same-o. Time to switch things up!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Palo verde removal and replanting: no lollygagging here!

This is the continuation of Monday's post

Sunday morning, 7:00 am. The dog has been fed, coffee is brewing, the house is quiet because the dog and I are the only ones up. Waiting for the coffee, I look out the dining room slider. Something isn't quite right, but it takes me a few moments to realize what it is. The tree aloe, which was getting close to touching the palo verde branch above it, is standing proud and tall, silhouetted against the morning sky. Unobstructed. Wait, where's the palo verde it was about to bump up against? No palo verde in sight.

Dread is mounting as I rush outside. This is what I see:


For a heart-stopping second I'm not sure if anything is trapped under the fallen tree. Fortunately, not.

But the tree does block more than half of the street. That's a problem, even on a quiet weekend on this quiet cul-de-sac in our quiet neighborhood.